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Quoth

May Challenge [Unofficial]

By Alexander McEvoyPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 9 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Quoth
Photo by Susan Gold on Unsplash

Unnoticed, the clock struck into the next day. Before my eyes, as midnight came and went, the words on the pages over which I poured blurred together. Meaningless under my over-tired gaze, they looped around themselves, slowly winding lines of text twisting themselves into knots as I watched, barely awake enough to do more than notice the change.

My head fell forward, my heavy eyelids finally starting to close as the weight of the world began to slip from my shoulders. The sweet embrace, the oblivion of sleep that had evaded me for far too long was just within my grasp. Interrupted when suddenly there came a tapping. The sound of someone gently rapping at my door.

“Nothing,” I muttered, stifling a yawn with the back of my hand. “Just someone at the door. Only this and nothing more.”

Through the window above my writing table, barely visible in the wan light that broke through the overcast December sky, I could make out the skeletal shadows of trees and sporadic patches of gleaming snow. Far too little of the stuff for the time of year, or so it seemed to me. Bleakness hung low over the world, the killing hand of winter felt, though its grip was gentle as of yet.

I threw a look over my shoulder at the door, wondering who could possibly be entreating entrance at such a time on such a night. Each dying ember from my fire, broken into tiny clumps of fading light and warmth, threw ethereal shadows across the floor. And as the fire grew lower, as the embers within began to smolder, shadows that seemed to dance, shifting forms to show shades and goblins from the depths of nightmares yet undreamt. In the room that grew still colder.

So badly I wished the sun would rise. That morning light would break through the grim December clouds and cast the demons and tormentors of the night back into the shadows where fear thrives and hope dies. At first I had thought to keep the fire high, to fight back the nightmares. But the night ran long, and no matter how many of my father’s old books I read through, the shadows grew only longer as the fire I forgot to feed burned lower.

Her name ran circles in my head. The last words spoken. The sorrow of her loss clutching at my soul, leaching heat and warmth and life from my limbs. It was her that kept me bound to wakefulness; when I close my eyes in earnest desire, her memory howled out of the darkened corners of my chambers with all desire to haunt my half-sleeping mind and prevent my rest.

Levering myself to my feet, I turned towards the door. Books of family lore and ancient deeds abandoned on the desk where moments before my head had been but inches from the pages, sleep just inches on from conscious cage. Behind me, the purple curtain rustled in a tiny breeze that crept in from the edges of the window through which I had been gazing. The sound was sad, almost uncertain, apologetic – almost like it was sorry for making such a fuss.

Of course, the window had to be mended. Wood for the fire that must be tended was in a strange place; positioned squarely between being affordable and expensive. But for now, I could only imagine a bleak December’s night when the wind did not creep in, violate my warm scholarly sanctuary, and give a sad voice to the whispering of my curtain.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, still trying to ease that fog that near-sleep dropped on my mind. “Some late visitor knocking on my door. This it is, and nothing more.”

The walk from my desk to the door was infinite. Every step seemed to draw up the whole of the Earth in concert, forcing me to trudge across my own floor as a wounded soldier does across the field of battle. Even then, I was soon before the door, hand resting lightly on the knob. Another knock, as gentle a tapping and a rapping as had come before.

My soul grew stronger at the sound. “Sir,” I said, finding my voice strong and sure, “truly your forgiveness I implore. For you see, you caught me napping, and so softly you came tapping at my chamber door that I was scarcely sue I heard you.” I flung wide the door exposing the darkness hiding there. Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness I stared, and to it also my soul was bared. Yet it seems there was none who cared. There had been a knocking and a tapping, so gently there had been a rapping at my chamber door. I was certain of the noise scarce heard before that I was struck at the darkness hiding behind there, just the darkness and nothing more. It had been a dream, that was the only explanation. Just a dream, and nothing more.

Gingerly I shut the door, sealing the darkness back behind its ancient wood, and plodded back across the floor. Good that I had been asleep, my thoughts ran even as they began to fade, leaving me only my constant companions of sorrow and guilt. Sorrow for the rare and radiant maiden who’s name will not be spoken by me forevermore.

But no sooner than the door had closed then again there came a tapping. No sooner had I turned my back when again there came a rapping upon my chamber door. Yet the sound was not as it was before when it had sounded from my door. A sharper sound now resounded, continuing until it my lagging mind it surrounded.

“Surely,” I muttered again, barely louder than before. “That is something at my window lattice.” Drawing back the silken purple curtains, I peered out at the winter night though of what I saw I could not be certain, strain my wearied eyes as I might. Clouds covered the face of the moon completely, plunging the world beyond into darkness. Surely there was darkness there, and nothing more.

And again there came the tapping, as though something sharp were gently rapping. Presently I filled with action - anger at the grave disruption. “’Tis the wind and nothing more!” Open then I flung the window and all my hopes were proven hollow when in stepped a stately raven. For certain t’was no craven, for even as my surprise expressed itself in exclamation, it opened wide its wings and cawed in acclamation before planting itself above my chamber door.

“Though,” I started, watching the bird as settled upon the head of Pallas over my chamber door, settled and sat and nothing more, “your crest is shortly shorn, my curiosity cannot be borne. Tell me first thy lordly name, before we see if thou art tame.”

Croaked the Raven, “nevermore.”

Thin and sickly it seemed to me, perched on an ancient bust above an aged door. Eyes too large and bright for such a bird, I wondered if it might have only be seeking a place to die. And yet if that were so why would it defy, the laws of nature which clearly state, that humans do not high on their fiend-lists rate. And yet it seemed to me that the bird was of the ancient saintly races, rarely ever seen before. How else could it come by such a name as ‘Nevermore”?

Pulling my cushioned chair around to face the decrepit corvid, I ensconced myself within the faded velvet and waited. Words did not flow out in a rapid stream, nor yet did they burst forth in puffs of steam against the winter chill trapsing in the open window lattice. So in earnest did I practice the subtle art of waiting upon the grave and stately corvid perched above my chamber door. Perched and sat and nothing more.

No word did it speak, seated there and staring down at where I waited. No word save that first exclamation of its designation. As though it would sit and stare, with eyes of beady black, in silence perfected forevermore. Leaving my mind to fill with frights I declare no mortal ever dared to fear before. That it would remain, making its eternal home in my domain. That he would soar down from his perch and mine own two eyes besmirch with beak and talon, leaving me blind to all but the visions in my mind.

That I would hear this bird speak aloud nevermore.

Leaving me with only the pain and fear of his vengeful strike, after that needle point on his beak did spike through my vision. A final division, a severing of myself from a world too just and pure for the likes of me. Releasing from my villain’s clutch the memory of the saintly Lenore.

But the raven, sitting in it’s stately way, glared down, daring me to say yet more to which it would offer no response. No strike did come, nor any word of reproach which might have offered some reprieve. So before my muddled mind could think to leave, that place whose ownership from my hands had been torn, I spoke aloud – trying to prove my mind was sound.

“Doubtless, what it utters is only stock and store. Learned from some unhappy master whose shoulders once a heavy burden bore. One that would make him say, with frequency to ensure it stay, in a bird who now can only utter, a repeated oft heard mutter, of the phrase nevermore.”

Still the raven uttered naught that could be understood. Made not a sound from his place atop the bust of Pallas above my chamber door. One thing only said he, just one thing and nothing more. Rage built inside at the whispered memory of a dream, a dream I once had dreamed before the loss of my love Lenore. When at last I sprang upright and demanded the bird, in all his ghoulish ghastly state, my hunger for answers sate.

Demanded then did I, though I knew not what I then did defy, that he answer me so that I could see, what he had in store for me. What devilry it sought to bring on my life in its sadistic revelry. Why it sat in pride of place, atop the bust of Pallas above my chamber door?

Croaked the Raven, “nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore. Tell this soul before you stood, tell him truly upon his family’s ancient wood, the meaning of your intrusion. Do you seek to cause confusion? Tell me, fiend, who names himself nevermore, what brings you in from the Night’s Plutonian Shore; dispense with your allusion so that I might enjoy the sweet conclusion of this meeting that I might return to my own seclusion. Shall I ever again lay eye upon the lost Lenore?”

Croaked the Raven, “nevermore.”

And so I raged at him, vented the fury building in my chest since on a divine whim she had been taken, and my chances of ever clapping eyes on her again were slim. Slim I had thought them once, though still extant before the ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ghoulish Raven sat himself above my door. Upon the bust that stands above my chamber door and croaked the foul word “nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting,” surging forward with a too shrill shriek. “Leave no token of the foul lies thou hast spoken. Take thee from above my door and return at once to the Hellish shore, when you came and trouble me no more. Leave my loneliness unbroken, leave behind naught as token. Might we have been friends had only you, said to me what I wish was true. That the rare and radiant maiden whom the angles named Lenore might not be nameless here forevermore.”

Still did the Raven return no answer, still the vile creature with a dancer’s skill remain unmoved from there above my chamber door. Not a sound, nor flirt, nor flutter, as seconds passed by score. Until he croaked at last, when I had thought the magic past, those few short sounds as though he swore, with scorn and vile condescension and on me turned his full attention.

Croaked the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, ever sitting, remains there upon the pallid bust of Pallas secure above my chamber door. His presence is a terror, and I know I made an error in not exiting through my chamber door when so gently he tapping, and so softly he came rapping, on that night when I was napping. Now there he stands and there he waits, and when he speaks, he simply states in a method I know to reference only my lost Lenore.

In response to my asking, as though it were to him a sacred tasking, croaked the Raven, “Nevermore.”

-0-

The above was written for Randy Baker's unofficial challenge "Prompted #4" It was inspired by The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

Short StorythrillerPsychologicalFantasyClassical

About the Creator

Alexander McEvoy

Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)

I hope you enjoy what you read and I can't wait to see your creations :)

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Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (10)

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Donna Fox (HKB)29 days ago

    Oooo!! This was good!! It had that classic feel to it that felt so familiar and I was really trying to pin down why... but you answered it in the author's note! The Raven by Mr. Poe!! I loved the overall poetic feel of this piece, the rhythm and flow of it was so well timed, written and thought out!! Great work my friend and congrats on Top Story!! 😊

  • Babs Iverson29 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!!!

  • angela hepworth30 days ago

    Stunning work!! You did the poem justice!

  • Dana Crandell30 days ago

    One of my all-time favorites as inspiration and a well-crafted tale! Congratulations!

  • Christy Munson30 days ago

    The inspiration sings through! I'm a fan of Poe's work, and I appreciate your take on his masterpiece. Congratulations on Top Story! 🥳

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Bro knew that raven only says "nevermore" yet he phrased his question this way, "Shall I ever again lay eye upon the lost Lenore?". Like why is he so dumb? He should have phrased it like this instead, "Would I always be alone without seeing or being with Lenore?". This way, when the raven says "nevermore", it'll be such a positive answer! Oooo, but plot twist, the raven says something else now, lol. Loved your take on this challenge!

  • Shaun Waltersabout a month ago

    Fantastic! Feels like a great companion to the original

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    Poe's work seems to have gripped many of our imaginations, thanks to Randy's ingenious challenge. His poetry easily crosses the membrane into story, no?

Alexander McEvoyWritten by Alexander McEvoy

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